When a dojo member told me that a Muslim friend of his wanted his wife and daughter to learn Aikido, I expressed my willingness to teach them. Since most dojos have classes that allow all sexes, many (though not all) observant Muslim women are excluded since their religion dictates that they are not to physically touch males who are not family.
I went to the local Mosque, met the Sheikh and the Judo Sensei who had secured mats and created a training area in a multipurpose room. While we were discussing the Aikido program, suddenly the conversation became rushed, and they said they had to go to prayer. “You can come with us,” they said. I went upstairs with the women, and afterward several women asked me why I was there, since I kind of stood out. When I told them, they were enthusiastic and excited. They asked me to create a flier, and they recruited a group of students to begin.
After Ramadan ended this year, I began teaching a group of women and girls Aikido. I have taught Aikido for more than 10 years, but I have never started a cohort of beginning students together. It has been incredibly rewarding, and the students have a great attitude about their training and work hard as they study Aikido.
Now I teach a group of 8 young women, in addition to teaching at my home dojo biweekly. During almost every class, other women come in and ask if she and/or her daughter can join, too. Initially, I only committed to teach for a 5 week long session, but now I want to expand, open more classes, and continue to teach my original group.
I’ve invited local women from the Aikido community to come for our final class of our first session in order to give my students the experience of training with sempai, and I hope that my students will be inspired by their Aikido. I’m grateful for my friends in Aikido for making the trip to join me and share their Aikido with my students.
I’m not sure what this will become, but it feels very significant. I feel like I am filling a niche that needed to be filled, and I am grateful for the opportunity.